Friday, February 28, 2014


Bought myself a new car yesterday - almost new, anyway. It's a 2013 Ford Fiesta with 30,000 miles on it. I've been toying with the idea of getting something better on gas for the college commute and I saw this one sitting at a dealer when I went to Indy on Sunday. The Missus drove it home from the dealership and according to the in dash readout, it was getting 38 mpg @ 55mph. She stopped at the gas station by the house because the tank was pretty close to empty and it cost less than $30.00 to fill it up. I've already spent $268.00 this month on gas. Some of that was for snow removal but most of it went into the truck. The trip to Indy didn't help but there were a couple of snow days at the school that partially offset that trip. I should be able to cut my fuel bill just about in half and get another 10 years out of the truck with the lower number of miles I'll be putting on it.

I had a couple of interesting conversations during the course of purchasing the car. The lady at the bank said her husband needs to get something like the Fiesta because he drives about 50 miles each way to work. The car salesman has an even longer commute. I'm assuming he doesn't have to make a car payment but if he's buying the fuel, that can't be cheap. It's interesting the number of people who commute long distances. Fuel cost, maintenance, insurance, time spent behind the wheel - can't imagine doing that for 40 years. If you're making $20.00/hour you're only taking home $15.00. Unless you're driving something that gets real good mileage, you're spending more than an hour's worth of your daily labor on fuel alone. Plus, in this bad weather we've been having, an eight hour day can easily turn into 12 hours with a snowy commute. 

The lady at the bank also said she used to teach school. Taught for one year, got what was to be a summer job at a bank and never went back. I wonder what the turnover rate is for school teachers compared to other jobs/professions? I personally know quite a few people who've left school teaching for greener pastures. I did see that Indiana is thinking about tossing the Common Core and coming up with their own standards. That might improve things but before I applaud that move, I'll reserve judgement to see what they come up with instead.

Stay warm and have a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Bitter Cold's Making Me A Little Bitter

I went to a coaches clinic over the weekend to get caught up on the new rule changes in amateur boxing. I knew there had been some major changes but since I'm no longer involved in the day to day activities of the gym, yet still want to know what's going on, figured it would be worth my time and expense to attend the clinic. I'm hoping to go to the Golden Gloves at least one night of the tourney this year. I haven't gone to the Gloves the last couple of years - be nice to go again.

The weather is still cold. Temperature this morning right about zero. Looking at something like 10 below tomorrow night with snow coming in over the weekend. At least if it snows I've got a reason to get out of the house. Parking my ass in the recliner is just not good. I've got a workbench down the basement where I could be tinkering with something but I keep thinking it'll warm up enough to get out and work on the 900 or the VW or something but it's just not happening. Doesn't appear as if it's going to for at least a couple of more weeks either. Who knew global warming meant temperatures 30 degrees colder than normal?

Surly's coming up with a plan for his Sportster and I might be coming up with a Sportster. I damn sure don't need any more motorcycles or much else with wheels underneath it but this is a horse of a different color, as they say. I am looking at buying a small car for commuting to the college. They're talking about changing the format from a 16 week class length to 8 weeks. If I teach two classes per session, that'll put me there four nights per week. More than I really wish to be there not only for the time spent but also the expense of driving back and forth.  Between the trip to Indy for the coaching clinic and filling up to drive back and forth to work, I've already spent $125.00 this week on gas. Of course the fact that gas went up about 30 cents per gallon on Sunday didn't help at all. If the U.S. is supposed to be a next exporter of energy now, no longer dependent upon other nations, how the hell come gas prices shoot up because of something happening in Venezuela? Especially on a Sunday. No need to reply. I already know the answer.

So that's what's happening here. Not much of anything going on other than spending my pension check on keeping warm and gasoline for either the truck, the snowblower or the tractor. And when it does finally warm up, I can park the snowblower and start running gas through the mower. That condo in Miami's looking better all the time.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Black & White Imprinting

Photo From Here

Since I've had a considerable amount of time on my hands lately due to the cold and the snow, I've been spending some of it on the computer. While I've come to the conclusion that the majority of of what's on the internet is not much of an improvement over television, with some of it of course being much, much worse, it does have some decent content and I have at least some control over annoying commercials. During the course of one of my sessions of late, I came across a black and white photo site that is just great. The majority of the images are from the 1950's - some earlier, some later - but great shots, all of them. Lots of street photography and "photojournalism" shots of the type you would have seen accompanying a story in Life magazine. Brassai, Kertesz, Doisneau, Eisenstaedt, they're all represented as would be expected, but there are also some shots by Vivian Maier. Vivian Maier's body of work has only come to light in the last few years. Hers is a fantastic story. If you're not familiar with it, check out the link and spend a little time reading up on her.

My life story on the other hand is pretty mundane. Not a complaint, that. It is what I've made it and all things considered, I'm pretty happy with it. However, after looking at all of those great black and white photos, I've come to the realization that I'm at least two big technology leaps behind in what "colors" my thinking and world view. I'm a Panatomic X guy or maybe a Plus X guy, but not a Kodachrome guy and certainly not a digital kind of guy. When I look at the photo above, I can easily picture that being my grandparents on the carousel. I grew up with black and white images - Life magazine, the daily paper, books, and television. Hell, I think I was close to forty years old before I owned a color television. The Missus and I bought a good black and white set right after we got married and since it kept working, we kept watching.

Where am I going with this, you may ask? No place really. Just ruminating on how much what we are exposed to as youngsters determines who we become as adults - film as metaphor, if you will. Obviously as a school teacher I've seen the effects of childhood influences in determining the resultant adult hundreds, if not thousands of times. Nothing new here as far as that goes, but I wonder what the future will bring for those born, say in the year 2000. Film, whether color or B&W, is for all practical purposes dead. Most everyone has a cell phone, which means everyone has a camera with them most all of the time. So now instead of a carefully composed shot with a twin lens or view camera, we get the internet loaded up with "selfies". While I'm sure there are many great photographers working out there today, the average person would be hard pressed to name one. Thinking about it, I could only come up with a couple, but then again, since I was so strongly influenced by the black and white images of my youth, those are what I typically seek out when looking at photographs.

Fifty years from now what will the recent retirees be looking at and how will they be looking at whatever it is they're looking at? How will growing up in the digital age affect their world view? How will it have affected their educations? Not only did I grow up in the age of B&W photography, but I also grew up in the age of the transistor and space exploration. So I was there at the beginning, so to speak. However, now that I'm on the far side of middle age, I wonder where it's going from here. I'm sure watching Sponge Bob on Saturday morning is no worse than Heckle and Jeckle but what about some of the violent video games? Politicians making Twitter posts? While you want politicians to be of and for the people, do you want them posting crap the same as some eighth grade girl, or worse yet, some knucklehead sitting on a bar stool? Shouldn't someone, someplace be above all of what is basically a waste of technology? Unless there are some quantum leaps in medical technologies, I won't be around to see any of the results in fifty years, but for those of you who will be, I would suggest you give serious thought to the use of technology and, more importantly, the effect it will have on your children.

You never know how what you do as a young man is going to effect who you are as an old man until you get to be an old man and by then it's too late. The die was cast and the race was run. Parent your children wisely.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One For Me

Photo From Here

One for me

Photo From Here

and one for Johnny.

Spent another morning shoveling and snowblowing yesterday. I couldn't get the tractor to push the snow through the big drift in front of the barn door so I got the snowblower to ease the way. While I was doing that a former student came up the lane with a 4x4 and a plow and took care of most of my plow work for me. Only had to spend an hour out there that way. Actually it was a beautiful morning to be out. Sun was out and it wasn't too cold. Just a pain to clear away 6" of snow when it's going to melt in the next couple of days anyway. Might be a little more coming in this weekend. According to the Chicago TV stations, normal snow accumulation is about 26" per winter season. We've got close to 70" this year. That's a lot of shoveling for my old back.

We've been having some computer problems of late. If I go missing for a few days, don't be alarmed. Probably going to have to get some professional help on getting things cleaned up a little.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Project Staircase

Here's a photo as promised of the spiral staircase the boys at the high school are making. It's gone together rather quickly up to this point. Really not much to making one except for bending the handrail and in this case, even that's not going to be an issue because it's going to have a rope handrail. There will be a short section of pipe welded to the top of the balusters and a rope will be threaded through from top to bottom. Neato - mosquito, I'd have to say. Dave said he'll send a couple more shots along as they finish it up. I probably ought to just plan on stopping by and checking it out in person. He told me the lady from the newspaper will be stopping by this week, so he'll be getting some positive press for the program and his crew besides here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

High School Shop Projects

I stopped by the high school Thursday while I was out running errands - after I got the truck shoveled out - and chatted with my replacement for a few minutes. He's building a circular staircase in the shop now. He and another student built the one that's in my new barn when he was in my class so he's got a little experience in that field. I didn't have my camera with me so I told him to e-mail me a few pictures and I'd post them here. Didn't get anything that looks like a staircase but the top photo is of the grates they made up for a place in Chicago. I saw them during construction and they came out really nice. They have a powder coat finish so they should hold up well to the foot traffic.

The bottom one is a butterfly they cut out on the new plasma cutter. Obviously he's become quite proficient with it. We've got one similar to it at the college but I've never seen it run. In fact, the subject came up earlier this week and I told my boss I know just the guy who can get that thing up and running. All this new technology is sometimes lost on us old guys. Not that we can't do it, it's the deciding if it's worth suffering through the learning curve for the limited amount of time you would use it. And, of course, the closer you are to the end of your employment, the less time you'll have to get a return on your investment. 

I'll be getting more photos from "Shop Teacher Dave" and I'll post them as they come in. That'll get us back to something a little closer to what I had envisioned when I started this blog.  I'm always looking to promote shop programs, wherever they are and whatever they are, but I'm especially proud to be able to promote my old program and see that it's in very capable hands. The school got real lucky when they got Dave.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Photo From Here
One might add it's a shame to see his strength slip away from him as he grows old also. In addition to my snow shoveling, I've been doing some strength training lately. When I was going to rehab they had us working with rubber bands for muscle development and they work surprising well. If you use them, that is. 5 to 10 minutes per day/3-4 times per week is about all it takes to keep your muscle tone.  The weatherman was forecasting some 40 degree days for next week. Won't be long after that I can get out on the bicycle, increase the walking routine and start prepping the garden - already ordered some seeds and plants.

Spring will be here soon enough. In the meantime, take the kids skating or sledding. I'll see about shoveling out my truck that I managed to get stuck in the driveway last night.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter in Wisconsin

Not really but it seems like it. We got about three more inches of snow Saturday afternoon and later that evening. Not really a bad thing, just more of it. 

Sums it up nicely

If we would have winters like this all the time, I think I'd build me a sidecar rig to throw around on the snow packed roads. Motorcycles with sidehacks used to be the fastest way to get around on the snow before the coming of the snowmobiles. Nice thing about a motorcycle rig is that it's street legal and a snowmobile isn't. If I ever get the 900 running, maybe make up something real simple to bolt on. Have to be a lot of fun.

I had to weld up the tractor seat the other day. Lots of spider cracks on the old dog but after 60 years, you're going to have some of that. I need to just replace the round section of the seat bottom with something a little heavier - be a good job for the springtime. It's nice that I can post something that I actually welded before this turned completely into a travel and cooking blog. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014


You need to check out Frankie Flood at Handverker to see the prosthetic hand he made for a little girl.

I've been following the story and it's absolutely amazing what Professor Flood managed to come up with along with his co-workers and others who travel in his circle. The hand is a result of an integration of the latest digital printing technologies and file sharing among some really talented Makers, along with good old fashioned Yankee ingenuity and hand skills. 

The hand in the photograph is basically just a prototype but she's picking things up for the first time in her life. This thing went together in a very short time frame, by the way. If you neglect all the "think time" that went into this, you could knock out a hand like this in just a few hours of printing and assembling time, with very little cost involved. Just think of all the possibilities. The patient wouldn't even have to be geographically close by. Order a cast kit, make the cast, send it in and you're prosthetic device will be sent to you by return mail. As the young lady grows, it'll be easy enough to scale up, as well. Very impressive.

Well done to all involved.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pancake - Grinder

Yum, yum. Potato Latkes fresh off the griddle. In fact, you can see the steam rising off the last couple I threw on the plate. When I went to all of the Christmas markets while in Europe, I was hoping to have some potato pancakes. The Christkindlmarket in Chicago has them and they're just the thing when it's cold outside, along with a mug of mulled wine, of course. Since I didn't have any over there, I decided to make them myself. I found a recipe in my old Laurel's Kitchen cookbook. 

It's a vegetarian cookbook and is full of great recipes as well as good advice for healthy eating. Since it was published in 1986, some of the statistics and studies she cites are outdated but the last 100 pages or so contain some excellent information on all things diet and nutrition. Had I taken this info a little more to heart, maybe my heart would have stayed in better shape. Anyway, the pancakes were easy to make and kick-ass tasty. Just the thing for a beautiful winter day with a high of about 5 degrees.

Need plenty of calories when you're out shoveling. That pile behind the light pole is about five feet high, by the way. We haven't had this much snow in a long time, or as much cold weather either as far as that goes. Maybe some more snow tomorrow but only an inch or two. 

The new bench grinder showed up earlier this week. I went out to the shop and unpacked it and plugged it in to make sure it worked. It's 3/4 horse but I think Chinese horses must be a little smaller than American horses - more like ponies I'd say. The tool rests are about as cheap as you can make them and have them still be serviceable but I knew what I was getting when I ordered the grinder. I'm planning on very little usage and the fixture for the lathe tools doesn't require the tool rest at all. So for fifty bucks and change, shipped to the door, it should be OK for what I want.

In spite of what the ground hog said, I'm thinking it should start warming up in about a week. Not toasty warm or anything but at least close to the seasonal average. That'll be warm enough to start getting a few things done. In the meantime, let's try and keep safe and warm. Potato pancakes help.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Photo From Here

I've been a big fan of Madeline Peyroux ever since I first heard her and even though I don't speak more than about three words of French, I really liked this song, J'ai Deux Amours. And then I came across this version on YouTube with the lyrics in English and now I really dig it. Yeah, I might have to go back.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Get Your Hand Outta My Pocket....

Started working on my taxes - always such a delight - especially on the day after the Super Bowl when the NFL made something like $6 million per minute on the ads but don't pay a dollar in taxes on the revenue. But I guess it's more important for a teacher or an adjunct faculty at the local community college to carry the load than an organization that makes $9 billion per year. Sure, that seems fair, doesn't it? One nice thing about this is that the boys in Washington are going to see to it that we no longer have to worry about this type of income inequality in the future. That's probably why they're pushing so hard for the minimum wage increase. That's what we're all going to be making in the future - except them of course. They came awfully close to having to buy the same insurance plan that they saddled the rest of the country with. I'm sure they won't make that mistake again.

Now that I've got that off my chest, back to the taxes.